Opening Day

by R.D. Figgins

We set the alarm for 3:15 am, pack all the gear we'll possibly need for opening day, put all the food and beer into the refrigerator so it's nice and cold when we put it into the cooler in the morning, make sure there is gas and oil for the boat, check the oil in the truck, go get gas and insect repellent, put the rods and reels in the boat along with the portable TV, make sure there is "fresh" line on all the reels, put the reels back into the boat, check the air in the tires on the trailer, call the lake and make sure the reservations are still good, tell the kids to go to bed because we'll be getting up early tomorrow, explain that we HAVE to get up that early because the fish do, check the tackle boxes for all the "right" stuff, make sure there are eggs, a good supply of Dick Nites, Fishermun's Lure Coat, bobbers, spinners, leaders, sinkers, (Ever notice we use sinkers and bobbers on the same line?), call our friends who are supposed to caravan along with us, talk briefly about all the fish we're going to catch, remember the fillet knife the kids were using for carving rocks, sharpen the fillet knife, get the latest edition of the "Fishing & Big Story Telling & Lots of Information That Is Probably Not Pertinent" fishing paper, make sure the kids are sleeping, look at the clock, realize it is 12:15am and we have to get up in three hours - & go to bed.

The alarm rings - YES! OPENING DAY WEEKEND IS HERE!

We get up, start the coffee, wake the kids (who at this time of the morning have decided that going fishing should be something we do in the afternoon), take all of the food and beer out of the refrigerator and put it in the cooler, hook the boat trailer to the truck, go in re-wake the kids, pour coffee, put the gear that's left in the house into the truck, drink the coffee, pour the rest into the Thermos, put it into the truck, herd the kids into the truck, get the spouse into the truck amidst a barrage of insultive and otherwise negative remarks, lock the front door, back out of the driveway and finally "hit the road."

As we arrive at the freeway entrance, we notice that for some odd reason, there are a lot of other people driving trucks and cars with various boats attached in a myriad of ways, all heading the same direction, attempting to get onto the freeway at the same time, with their families in different stages of sleep or discontent. We also notice the latest edition of the "Fishing & Big Story Telling & Lots of Information That Is Probably Not Pertinent" fishing paper that is on our dashboard is laying on about half of the other dashboards we see while waiting in line to enter the clogged freeway that seems more like a shipping lane with all of those boats heading the same direction, and hope that all of these people aren't going to the same lake that we read about in the paper we so reverently regard as "our little secret information source." Nah! They're probably all going somewhere else.

As we near the turn-off to the lake resort we have been dreaming about for the past three weeks, we are taken aback by the beauty, the size and the vastness of the line of RV's, boats, trailers, pickups, Ramblers and motorcycles that have obviously made wrong turns and ended up at the entrance to the public fishing access at "our" lake!

The kids and spouse have all made it quite clear that if the truck doesn't stop somewhere near a "potty", there is going to be a very definite mutiny. The explanation that we could start moving any minute doesn't seem to carry much weight with them, so the concession is made (after a secret decision to buy a self contained RV for next year) that we will stop at the next one we see (After all, we're only half a mile from the camp site we reserved! Can't take too long!).

We're Here! Finally!

The "neighbors" seem pretty nice, all nine of their kids are playing with their fishing poles and practicing casting into our campsite. Other than the one episode with the lantern there is no real problem. Well, their dog does seem to be the vocal type, but that is normal - he's now got nine kids practicing reeling in the "big one" with him as the surrogate fish. He'll quiet down tonight.

The spouse and kids, duly relieved and happy just to be out of the truck, have taken to "making camp", a term that evidently holds a different meaning for the group of college boys 2 sites away. I rather enjoy the loud rap music kids listen to these days, it reminds me of the things my father used to say to me about Rock- N-Roll being nothing more than noise...... memories!

The water skiers on the lake seem to be enjoying themselves, giving all the opening day fish a good workout chasing them from one end of the lake to the other! Well, at least the fish won't fight too much!

The boat ramp seems adequate, at least there is enough room for maneuvering the truck around to get the boat in somewhat straight. Looks like morning will be nice weather for fishing! Have to turn in early tonight.

The camp stoves around the campground, combined with the glow of lanterns, the sweeping of flashlight beams across the trees, the crickets chirping the day away, the smell of hot dogs and marshmallows being roasted, moms walking the kids to the "potties", the occasional splash in the lake of either a late night swimmer or (oh Lord, please?) it could be the mother of all lunkers surfacing, waiting for my hook in the morning, along with the motorcycles roaring up and down the road, the children whining and crying about the mosquitoes, the subsequent smell of insect repellent, the dog barking non-stop at whatever he (or she) can find to bark at, the college boys who have obviously not had a lot of experience with drinking hard liquor, roaming from campsite to campsite looking for a "PARTY!", the sound of the guy with nine kids snoring in his motorhome, the moon shining through the smoke from the campfires, cigarettes, pipes, cigars and whatever else is being smoked, the chainsaw running two sites away, and the incessant rap music make the evening move forward at a pace only appreciablewhen experiencing this bliss.

As a means to sleep, the 30-30 is eyed, but the thought of spending opening day in the police station soondismisses that idea. These people will soon tire and wander off to bed. We are tired, and put the chaos out of our minds in favor of sleep.

As always, the quiet of dawn seems to beckon to us as a sort of quiet alarm clock. We rise, quietly, and cautiously go about getting the coffee ready while carefully not stepping on the college student with the empty tequila bottle snuggled so carefully in his arms, who is sleeping next to where our fire was the night before. This is the time we have been waiting for! The darkness before the storm of opening day! The solitude and oneness with nature one feels just before everyone else wakes up. We are the king of this paradise, at once alone and in communion with mother nature. Our thoughts of the morning ahead so filled with memories of years past when Mom & Dad would take us to "the lake" on opening day weekend - such wonderful remembrance! The smell of coffee is now filling the air, and we notice that we are not the only "serious" fisherpeople up and about - there are several other stoves brewing coffee, a couple of people are talking softly (about their strategies for a bit later, we are sure), and one truck has already ever-so- carefully backed its boat into the lake. Excitement is welling up within us as the time nears when we will have that first nibble!

Still dark, the time feels right! The boat is backed down the loading ramp, the boat let off and beached to theside, the truck returned and no one is the wiser! How wonderful this time of day is! The dog is even sleeping (or maybe the college student shared his tequila with it?).

As I look at the spouse and kids, all sleeping so serenely, it seems such a shame to disturb them. I could go
alone! Then I would only have one rod to worry about! I wouldn't have to worry about where to "go" when that time came, or the cold, or if it doesn't hurt the worm to have that hook stuck "right through it"-" Yuck, Dad!". I could go alone! Nah! As I wake the family, there seems to be an excitement in them too - then I realize that they are all interested in going "potty" more than anything. Mom takes them, as I make all the final checks on equipment. The sun will be coming up soon, and we need to be in that little cove on the West side of the lake when it does. Come on! Hurry up kids!

Ahh, the feeling cannot be described! On the lake at sunrise! Crisp air, a light mist rising off of the lake, theearliest beams of sunlight filtering down onto the lake, the sound of birds welcoming in the day - 235 outboard motors revving up (I would guess 50% hadn't run since last opening day, judging by the amount of effort being put into starting them!), fishermen maneuvering wildly for "that spot" they know will produce fish, the distinct sound of fiberglass meeting wood and the resultant screaming of male voices, the eventual quieting as the mass of floating plywood and fiberglass comes to an agreeable point in its location. As the lines are dropped over the side, the excitement builds. The first "FISH ON" is heard across the lake. Then another, and another...

My son, who has never caught a fish, suddenly stiffens, his eyes growing and a look of sheer terror crossing his face, he says something to the effect of "DAD! I GOT SOMETHING!!"... as the hook is set, and his first Rainbow comes over the rail, I realize that it is worth it, every last bit of it!